Patient loyalty doesn’t just happen
(If you skip to the bulleted list at the end of this article, you’ll find some questions to ask yourself. Keep those in mind as you read and consider what your health system can do to market itself around these opportunities.)
According to recent studies, detailed in two articles from my colleagues at Core, patient loyalty is a result of careful planning; the full picture presented when strategic pieces work together to the benefit of patients.
In this article, you will learn about specific initiatives that can help you complete that puzzle, strategies that target a goal of increasing patient loyalty for health systems. For background, I’ll direct you to:
- Salesforce: Take your cues from highest performers in 2018 State of Marketing Study, by Ward Alles, president
- Earning Patient Loyalty in 2018 and Beyond: Four core strategies, by Sue Spaight, director, research and strategy
In his article, Alles asserted that customer experience is key to building patient loyalty. That was his takeaway after reviewing the 2018 State of Marketing Study from Salesforce. Ward noted that organizations can win new customers and keep current ones happy if they improve the customer experience. So, in the immortal words of Winnie the Pooh, “What to do? What to do?” Fortunately, Spaight has an answer. In her article, she got into the strategy of patient loyalty. What can a health system do to best strategically position itself to earn patient loyalty? Sue’s recommendations, based on data, cover four positioning strategies to earn patient loyalty.
Still, it leaves a final question.
That’s where this article comes in.
Marketing today can be more than conceptual storytelling. Conceptual storytelling, building emotional connectivity with your audience, can truly motivate action. However, if customer experience is a major driver of patient loyalty, how can health systems, with all of the technology, engagement, communication channels, and positioning strategies at their disposal, communicate with a target audience to earn patient loyalty? In other words, sure, your health system is making a difference for people’s lives, but what if you could make a difference in the way people experience your health system? How would that build your brand to the point of earning patient loyalty?
Here are some recommendations and examples to help you think about it.
Recently, Uber made news around their plans for Uber Health, a way to bring reliable rides to patients, “eliminating transportation as a barrier to care.” Read a more extensive look into the service and how its evolution is happening in this article from Healthcare DIVE.
Lyft, another ride-share program, made similar news in early March with a partnership with Allscripts, “to make it easier for hospitals and doctors’ offices to schedule rides for patients who need them.” In the article, you’ll read that “(Lyft) has since signed deals with several hospital systems and medical transportation companies.”
Lyft and Uber were disrupters to movement, finding a way to make movement more convenient. At first it was just for people. That brought buy-in. Then it was food; pick up and delivery. Now, seemingly, it’s healthcare. If you can’t get healthcare to people, get the people to healthcare. If Lyft refers to this as its “entrance into health care,” it could be considered an opportunity for health systems to move into convenience.
This is how technology meets people and our needs. With understanding and adoption to serve an organization’s (i.e. your health system’s) needs, we begin to see more clearly how we can develop and market changes that are pivotal to building convenience.
And convenience begets experience.
A customer’s experience is so much more than customer service. Your marketing is so much more than just communicating a message.
Strategic decision making for how your health system provides services to its customers is a contributing factor to the creation of patient experience.
In healthcare, when we’re dealing with humanity, compassion and empathy, the job needs to be done well and it needs to be done with care, enough to create an experience people want to engage with and recommend to others. Today, in our nascent digital era, customer service extends to the experience we’re crafting not just with a smile and good attention inside facility doors; it’s in a customer’s digital life.
For example, Visa (yes, the credit card company) has just created a new experience for its customers. Visa is now offering, and therefore marketing, a new product called Current, a card for teens (you can see the video at that link), but one still managed by their parents. It’s an enhancement that is, presumably, built around research into ways to grow new customers by offering a unique experience they want or need. The approach is simple, though the work may be complex.
- Research the audience’s needs.
- Discover a unique opportunity.
- Develop a product that builds a new experience.
- Market it.
How can a health system create an experience for its customers? Put the patient at the center of your world and activate your services around their needs to create the best possible experience. Find the extra step to create a stronger experience for your patients and market it.
Check out this editorial in Modern Healthcare, covering “How value and convenience are reshaping the delivery of healthcare.” The author discusses how convenience, serving consumer demand, creates an experience around the technological advances we are already beginning to take for granted. Many of these changes are bringing disruption to the ways patients experience their journey through healthcare. It’s time to recognize what your health system is doing different and build marketing programs around it. (A peak behind the curtain on that editorial: You’ll read keywords like telemedicine, telehealth, video, healthcare delivery, retail healthcare clinics, CVS, MinuteClinic, Walgreens)
Convenience and experience can drive better outcomes and quality.
Outcomes & Quality
This one can be simple. Traditional measurements around outcomes, quality and things like HCAHPS mean widely different things to the general public. In her article, Sue noted “the outcomes consumers focus on aren’t all about clinical quality.” A good rule of thumb is to assume no one knows what you’re speaking about and avoid jargon at all costs.
For their health, people want confidence.
If you can stake a claim to quality, do it, and build confidence within your audience. Simply. Plainly. Demonstratively. Do it in terms people understand and remember, not through complex machine names, or procedures and technology that sound like parts of the space shuttle.
Audit your thinking. Check your perspective. Look at your message, your outcomes, scores and measures of quality, and ask yourself what that means to your audience. Then translate it to suit them.
Finally, about that confidence people are looking for …
Here’s where you put the pieces together to truly tap into an emotional connection with your audience. Make it convenient by building a better experience. Convey outcomes and quality in ways people understand. And … empower your audience.
Give your patients control over their care.
Not just through tips on healthy living, but find ways to offer advantages to your audience based on what they need and market that. To get started, ask yourself some questions.
- How easy is it to contact a physician or book an appointment?
- Is your audience merely booking appointments when they need them or are you engaging them around a spectrum of care and providing a way to manage that?
- Can patients get to or find your facility?
- Will they know how to continue to manage the care you’ve recommended?
- Do they understand the role your advanced treatment technology truly plays in their care?
- Is it easy for them to pay for or understand how to pay for your services?
Your answers to those questions may spark ways to empower your patients to take greater personal control over their care. Or, there may be alternatives that give your patients a level of control that will spark greater engagement with your health system.
For example, in Wisconsin, Aurora Health Care recently announced plans for an AI-powered digital concierge. It’s a simple journey that gives the patient control and, ultimately, can empower them to be greater managers of their own care. A patient experiences symptoms, has questions, engages with a chatbot that is the face of a massive archive, accesses recommendations, plans for care and offers direction for treatment steps. When engaging with the digital concierge, Aurora patients will be able to click through to reserve an appointment at a facility. This empowerment all happens within a patient’s convenient experience with a health system’s brand. That’s one giant leap beyond people searching WebMD, hoping they’re ok or just ignoring symptoms all together.
That’s how you build patient loyalty in 2018, for 2019 and for a lifetime in each year to come.
Colin Deval is a Senior Communications Strategist at Core Creative, a branding agency that specializes in telling the life-changing stories for mid-market healthcare systems and the emerging med-tech world.